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Well, there’s one thing we can say without reservation: The annuity industry is not standing pat. We spoke with Dana Pederson, vice president of annuity products at the Phoenix Companies, Inc., to get a better handle of the various trends and changes to annuities.

Over the past 15 years, Pederson has worked with annuities of different shades and colors, including variable, fixed and indexed. Lately, she’s had her eye on the indexed side of the business where the changes (and growth) have been the most dramatic. But she’s seen interesting trends emerge across product lines. Here are some of the key trends, according to Pederson:

The growth of indexed sales. “There’s been a lot of development on the indexed side and the result has been strong sales.”

The biggest trend in products: GLWBs (Guaranteed Lifetime Withdrawal Benefits). “After the scare of the 2008 financial crisis, people increasingly are looking for guarantees.”

More carriers. “More carriers are entering the space with newer products and new features.”

Guaranteed death benefits. “There’s a big surge in guaranteed death benefits on indexed products where there’s a guaranteed, specified rate of return upon death. We saw that trend years ago in the variable annuity space. Now it’s coming to the indexed side. These products have really picked up in the last year with the top 20 companies offering some form of death benefit.”

Fixed annuities. “There are not a lot of new features, but we see a gain in popularity despite the low rate levels.”

Variable annuities. “We’ve seen an increase in sales for three consecutive quarters. Sales in the last quarter tracked (Q2 2011) were the second highest since 2009. The financial crisis scared people, but now there’s finally more risk tolerance among many consumers.”

Rates. “Based on everything we’ve heard we think they’ll stay low for a while. So I think you’ll see the continued development of products that work in a lower rate environment.”

An influx of new players offering annuity products. “Often maligned by the media as well as wirehouses and broker-dealers, annuities are mounting a comeback. We’re now seeing wirehouses and broker-dealers giving some space on their shelves to the non-variable annuity products.”

Benefits to having more players in the market. “More variety, more competition, and increased suitability to the annuity products. The broker-dealers and wirehouses couldn’t get past the bad rap of the products. They now are beginning to realize the benefits, and see that the industry has taken steps to increase the disclosure, the suitability and the monitoring of the products.”

Innovation. “I think we’ll have more registered products. Companies have been filing new products on the registered side.”

More on innovation. “We’ll start to see even more combo products. If hurdles can be cleared, we could see a surge in the annuity/LTCI combo products. We thought we’d see those a few years ago, but we could finally be catching up as producers get more education and licensing on the long-term care and health side of the business.”